Alexei Navalny Must Stay in Russian Prison Despite Allegations of Torture, Judge Rules

Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny will have to stay in a Russian prison despite allegations that he's being tortured by prison guards.

On Wednesday, a Russian judge denied Navalny's bid to overturn his designation as a flight risk, which he said has allowed guards to "torture" him with sleep deprivation.

Navalny has complained that he was wakened by guards every hour of the night during his stay at the IK-2 corrective penal colony so they could film him and report his presence at the prison to officially verify his location.

Prison authorities did not deny Navalny's account but defended their actions, saying it was necessary because of his flight risk status.

His Foundation for Fighting Corruption responded to the judge's ruling on Twitter, writing, "A court has refused to take Alexei Navalny off the [flight risk] register as he is prone to escape. A man who returned to Russia himself despite the threat of jail time!"

Alexei Navalny Russian Prison Torture Judge Rules
Jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny appears on screen via a video link from prison during a court hearing on May 26. On Wednesday, a judge ruled Navalny would have to remain in prison despite allegations of torture. Dimitar Dilkoff/AFP

The 44-year-old opposition leader is currently at a different prison facility with a hospital but is expected to return to IK-2. He was moved after he went on a hunger strike in late March in an effort to demand better medical care for acute leg and back pain he was suffering.

Navalny is serving a two and a half year sentence for parole violations, which he calls a politically motivated retaliation from the Kremlin. He is one of Russian President Vladimir Putin's most prominent critics.

Navalny was arrested and jailed in January after returning to Russia from Germany, where he was being treated by doctors after being poisoned. He has accused Putin of ordering the poisoning, which the Kremlin has denied.

Navalny is bringing two other legal challenges against the prison. One is an attempt to stop the prison from censoring the newspapers he receives, which he says have had articles cut out before he gets to read them.

"[My] correspondence is of course censored. I don't mind the [prison] reading [my] letters. But why do they cut out articles from newspapers—no one can understand that," he told a court on May 23, according to Reuters.

Navalny's third challenge is against what he says has been authorities' illegal refusal to give him a copy of the Koran. He told a court last month that he was legally entitled to the religious work despite not being Muslim.

The prison has said it is acting in strict accordance with Russian law.